A poll released today by the Associated Press and mtvU gives insight on the stress that social networks and text messaging can cause college students.
The two media organizations teamed up to conduct a “technology and mental health poll” of 2,207 undergraduates at 40 colleges, and found a group with many Facebook friends but few they feel comfortable reaching out to in a crisis. For instance, 40 percent say they have at least 500 friends on Facebook but hardly interact with most of them.
About 90 percent of students surveyed said they used Facebook and sent text messages to friends in the previous week. However, not everyone was excited about these modes of communication. About a quarter of them said they would be relieved if they shut off their cellphones and computers, while 57 percent said a social-media blackout would make them more stressed.
And many students said they felt the need to respond immediately to any text. Sixty percent said that if someone failed to respond immediately, they puzzled over why.
Denise Hayes, president of the Association for University and College Counseling Center Directors, said she was not surprised by the results. She said reliance on text-based communication can have negative consequences. “If you develop that sense of intimacy over the Internet, it can create a void in one-on-one interaction,” Ms. Hayes said.
She said colleges’ counseling centers should do more to promote students’ personal interaction. One high-tech idea she suggested: A counseling center’s Facebook page could notify the student body of a flash-mob event.
“It is incumbent for mental-health services to catch up, so we can provide students resources and bring them help wherever they are,” she said.